If you’ve had nasal congestion for more than a few days, it is likely due to one of two culprits: allergies or a sinus infection. Knowing which condition is behind this symptom is key to seeking appropriate treatment. Below we review how allergies and sinus infections cause congestion, how to tell the difference and how to find relief.
How Do Allergies Cause Congestion?
Allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, are the result of your immune system mistaking a harmless substance like pollen at Cheney Park as a dangerous intruder and attacking. During this attack, the immune system releases antibodies called Immunoglobulin E, which tells the cells to release the chemical histamine. Histamine increases mucus production and causes inflammation. This inflammation is why you feel congested.
How Do Sinus Infections Cause Congestion?
A sinus infection usually occurs after you’ve had an allergic reaction or come down with a cold. Inflammation caused by allergies or a virus blocks mucus from draining, causing it to pool in the sinuses. This trapped mucus can cause congestion in addition to sinus pain and pressure. In some cases, bacteria begins to grow as well.
How to Tell the Difference Between Allergies & a Sinus Infection
You can usually tell which condition you’re affected by based on what other symptoms you have.
In addition to congestion, allergies will likely cause:
- Itchy, watery eyes.
- Runny nose.
These symptoms come on quickly after you’ve been exposed to an allergen.
A sinus infection will likely result in:
- Thick mucus drainage.
- Facial pain/pressure.
- Postnasal drip.
- Bad breath.
- Cough/sore throat.
These symptoms may last anywhere from a week to a few months. Contact your doctor if symptoms persist more than a week or if you have a fever.
Treating Congestion Caused by Allergies
If you’re experiencing allergies, you can find relief from your congestion by:
- Practicing avoidance of allergens.
- Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine, decongestant or corticosteroid nasal spray.
- Talking to your doctor about immunotherapy.
Treating Congestion Caused by a Sinus Infection
If you have a sinus infection, you can ease symptoms by:
- Getting plenty of rest.
- Drinking lots of fluids.
- Taking an over-the-counter decongestant or corticosteroid nasal spray.
- Using a saline rinse.
- Running a humidifier.
- Getting a prescription for antibiotics.
For more information about managing allergy and sinus symptoms, call Charleston ENT & Allergy today.